Monday, December 21, 2009

I Hate Cancer II

There comes time when you just sit back and although you have great belief in a God, you question why some things must happen. Like war, famine, cancer. I am aching because I am going to lose a good friend. Not a buddy … but a wonderful gal I enjoyed having conversations with. Cheryl is a vocal advocate for people with disabilities. She and I do not always agree on how the State should fund things, but we could have honest, heartfelt disagreements and walk away from our discussions appreciating our differences. The State of Indiana is going to miss Cheryl Waltermire, and that’s sad because people with disabilities needs more Cheryls.
Tomorrow I am meeting with Cheryl one last time here on earth. Her request. Her phone call earlier this evening blew me out of the water. I hardly recognized her voice. We last meet for lunch a couple of months ago, she used a walker, but she was so positive. She didn’t lie to me about her status … but obviously she wasn’t totally honest with me either. I’ve mentioned it before … I hate Cancer. There is no purpose, it does no good, it only leads to pain, suffering, and much too often – death.
So today I ache for a friendship that is unique. Rarely did Cheryl and I agree, but we were always able to accept our differences and be better people because of it. Cheryl had a quote that summed up her attitude, her vision: "We don't need to be right, we just need to do the right thing". It’s rare to find a friendship where you find ‘your sister’, ‘your sole mate’, ‘your equal’. But maybe even more rare to find someone that is your polar opposite yet ends up being an honest friend.

Oh Cheryl …. I am going to miss our battles. I can promise no tears tomorrow as we meet, because of my prayer warriors. But know that they will flow, not only for my loss but for the loss of those you so vocally advocated for.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 Christmas Letter

Dear One,

Last year when it came time to sit down and think of the ‘word’ to describe my year … I struggled. In fact, at this moment – I can’t even recall the word I went with last year. That makes me sad, because for the most part, each year was cumulated by the word I shared with you. That bothers me now. Usually I knew what ‘word’ I would be using long before I thought about writing my Christmas letter … well, sit back, and take a break – because I’m back! I know exactly what word to use for 2009!

A couple of weeks ago we had a guest minister. He spoke that as we search for a new Pastor, to find one with passion; someone that will inspire us, someone that will challenge us, someone that will encourage us. Passion, it had been missing from my life. Oh, but not this year! So this year my word is “Passion”. Yes, “Passion”. It came back into my life this year.

The first time I felt passionate had to be sometime in February when I heard I was going to be a Grandma. How excited I was, and how joyous I was to share the news. Do you remember how you found out? Some of you by my ’25 Random List’ I emailed you, some at church in mid-February, and some at Tumbleweeds on a Monday night. A few knew before … but very few.

Then when Collin Clay (named after my Dad – which really touched me!) Patterson entered this world on August 27th. I was so in awe of God’s amazing work, and passionately in love with Collin. ”For I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalms 139: 14 (One of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible). I looked into Collin’s face and became aware of a whole new, different type of love. He has added a new dimension to my life, and I am so thankful for this gift.

But I think the one thing that probably has changed me; made me more passionate … is getting back into the work I have done for over twenty years … social service. Three years ago I was so burnt out from working 65 – 80 weeks (on salary no less!) that I had no choice but to walk away from it. But about 6 – 8 weeks ago (depending on when I actually finish this!) I went back in the field … this time with StoneBelt. I enjoy going to work. I missed working with the disabled population, and now that I am back at it … realized this is what inspires me, this is what challenges me, this is what I do best – encouraging others. This is where my talent lies; this is where my heart is … this is where my Passion is. I appreciate being away from the work, for I did need the break. But this is where God wants me to be, this I have no doubt. I am not taking on the responsibilities I had before, for that was too much for someone who enjoys being with family and friends as often as I do … but I was good at what I did, and happy to be back at it!

I have been blessed with so much this past year. I love the family God has placed me in, and I love the friends He has given me to enjoy. I want each of you to know that my life is enriched because of you, and I passionately give thanks for each of you.

My wish for you this coming year? That you find something to be passionate about; something that inspires you, something that challenges you, something that encourages you. This Season, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, may you find a passion for Christ and understand the depths and wonders of His love.

Christmas Joy,


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

1 Corinthians 15:10

Didn't write this .. but love it!

By Grace Alone*

I am forgiven. I have joy. I love others. I smile in the rain. I am confident. I live. I laugh. I climb mountains. I forgive. I hope. I am happy. I give. I pray through. I am strong. I am kind. I believe. I am a friend. I have peace. I care. I breathe. I stand for truth. I dream. I have a purpose. I approach God. I have a pure heart. I am courageous. I see beauty. I am beautiful. I celebrate. I am thankful. I am content. I soar. I am safe. I am saved. I am blessed. I am a blessing. I am free. I am wise. I have a dwelling place. I am merciful. I am what I am. I am sure. I am enthusiastic. I praise. I have no limits. I press on. I find rest. I move forward. By the grace of God I am what I am.
I Corinthians 15:10

Monday, November 23, 2009

The One Thing ... Christ's Presence

It seems to get harder every year to find the real meaning of Christmas in today’s society. We are urged to be so ‘politically correct’ that we loose the fact that Christ is the central figure of Christmas. What does the celebration of His birth mean to you? Is it the sacrifice He made for us, or is it the life He gives us that makes Christmas special? Is it the miraculous way He came into this world or the reason He came into this world that brings significance to the season for you?

While lying in bed one night recently, I was telling God how I've been feeling and I began asking Him questions. After I'd asked my last question I realized He was speaking to my heart - you know; in that still small voice that, although it's not audible, it leaves an indelible impression nonetheless. It was as though He was saying to me, "'Loretta, the One Thing is you and Me."

I knew instantly what He meant. As with everything else in the Christian life, it's not about ritual or tradition or even about what Christ did for us. It's about where I stand with him now, today, right this minute. It's about Our relationship. It's about walking with Him daily, turning to Him in every situation, trusting Him with all my cares, my burdens, my concerns. It's about making Him the priority in my life, day by day, moment by moment. It’s about having His presence in my life. Everyday, not just during Advent Season.

And then it occurred to me: my relationship with God is more important than anything. More important than my family. Yes, even my new grandson Collin! I suppose I've always known via head-knowledge that was the way it was supposed to be, but in that brief moment with God, there alone in my room, I realized it in my heart, even to the very core of my being. Once it was lip-service, but at that moment it was so tangible I felt I could reach out and touch it. I felt Christ’s presence. I also realized I'd been so overwhelmed trying to take care of things; my family, home, work, church and other responsibilities that I have neglected my relationship with my Lord. Although it's been a priority to spend time with God and to work on our relationship, it just hadn't seemed possible to fit it into my already overcrowded schedule of late. How could I hope to spend time daily with Him (who I can't see) when I couldn't even seem to take care of those things I can see? But there, in His presence, He spoke the answer to my heart and it seemed as though it was the most logical thing in the world. "Make Me your top priority and all the other priorities will be taken care of."

That night I found my "one thing." And I commit to you now that this holiday season I will hold on to my "one thing." I will hold on to the gift God personally gave me that night - a personal encounter with Him during which He, by virtue of His Holy Spirit, gave me a tangible picture of what Christmas is really supposed to be for me. It's a time to put things in perspective, to get my priorities straight, and to focus my time and energy on drawing closer to God. Nothing is more important. In fact, it's so important that He gave His only Son over to death on a cross so that I would be able to draw close to Him.

I challenge and encourage you in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this holiday season to take a quiet moment to ask God what your "one thing" is for this Christmas season. I guarantee you if you ask Him with all your heart, He will answer you – He did me. For He says in His Word, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

May you feel Christ's presence this Advent Season.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Psalm 109:8

Tell me ... have you received the hate email circulating around? The one that states: Let's join together and pray for Obama? Sounds good doesn't it ... but then the email goes on to post a biblical scripture with it. Psalms 109:8 - it's among the top goggles the past few days.

For those of you who may not know that particular verse, it reads "May his days be few, may another take over his position." And before anyone excuses this toxic use of scripture as nothing more than the wish that President Obama not be re-elected to a second term of office, the next verse in the psalm reads, "May his children be orphans and his wife a widow".

In fact, the entire chapter is about praying for death of an evil person. Not to mention that anyone who knows enough Bible to have thought about this verse in particular, surely knows the entire chapter and appreciates its message. Pretty scary stuff.

All this is especially upsetting in light of the recent events at Fort Hood. Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies?

The issue is not the scripture quoted or the name by which God is called by those doing the praying. The issue is invoking the God in whom any of us believe, to act as executioner of those with whom we disagree.

From Major Hassan who murdered 13 and wounded 30 more, to whomever might step in on behalf of a "Christian nation" to make the words of the Psalm 109 a reality, each was inspired by prayers and scriptural readings not unlike those of the millions who made verse 8 a top Google search this week. There is no place for such prayers in any of our faiths and until we all stand up and say so, at least a little blood will be on all of our hands.

We should be praying for our leaders in a positive way. Praying they make right decisions, that God will guide them in the right direction. It doesn't matter what Person is in office because as long as man is in charge it's not going to always be popular. Those individuals that are professing this "Pray for Obama - Ps 109:8" crap are in many cases the same individuals that were horrified over Rev. Jeremiah Wright speaking out against our country.

For many, the slogan is just a humorous way to express disapproval for President Obama. Perhaps, those who support the slogan “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8" should read Matthew 7:1-2: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use.” Oh, and I think there is a verse or two to be found in the Bible that mentions "Loving our Neighbors". Like it or not ... President Obama is our neighbor.

No matter your political preface, no matter your religious preface, no matter the color of your skin, or the way your name is spelled: sending deflamatory emails asking people to pray for our Leaders death is wrong.

Will you stand up and say so? I pray so.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How Do You Give?

It's getting time to consider tithing at church, and how simple it would be to just fill out the card and turn it in. But it's not meant to be that simple. I wish we could fill out our pledge cards like the youth did back when JT was in the first grade. As a family we sat and talked about what each of us could do. The children at our church also filled out pledge cards, and the boys agreed to give a portion of their allowance each week. Their cards also had other ways they could give. I remember the options included: serving as Acolyte, passing out bulletins, cleaning up after Sunday School, drawing pictures for Bulletins, etc. Then there was a blank space designated as "Other". I remember asking JT if there was anything else he could think of and put down. JT looked seriously at me and said "Mom, I give good hugs, I will promise to hug some old lady every Sunday". Well, I may not have written it down word for word ... in fact I am pretty sure I left out that "old lady" part. But JT kept that pledge, and those 'old ladies' looked forward to JT's hugs each Sunday. I realize many years later what a gift that was when a young first grader came up to me and hugged me. I am pleased to say that JT, maybe because of a pledge many years ago, is still a great hugger!
We know that Josh isn't the hugging type ... it's not his thing. But Josh has a wonderful, generous heart. I remember ... as a young mother who learned from the best - to always wrap their children up for the winter weather. My boys were dressed like the little brother in "A Christmas Story", the one that was so wrapped up he couldn't put his arms down. I had to do this ... they had to wait at a bus stop, and I had to make sure they were safe and warm - that's what mothers do. One morning I was 'preparing' them for the winter elements, and couldn't find Josh's scarf. They had a designated place to keep their items, so when I couldn't find it, I questioned Josh. He looked at me and simply said "Mom, there was a boy at the bus stop without gloves and a hat." I was proud of Josh to think of sharing what he had, and gave him an extra pair of gloves to give to the boy that day if he still wasn't wearing them. One of the things we do as a church every year is our Mitten Tree, and I love knowing that Josh as an adult purchases items to put on that tree. What I saw a few years ago reminded me of the bus incident. We had gone to Indianapolis to listen to the Symphony, it was a cold evening in February. After the concert we went out for pizza and had leftovers so put it in a box to take home. We were walking the few blocks to the car, and had to walk by some homeless men sitting under an overpass. My 'mother' antenna was up and I was alert and watching to make sure no harm was done to my sons. Josh walked over to two men, gave them the pizza, took off his hat and gloves and gave them to the men. Nothing said, nothing expressed. JT, seeing what his brother had done, turned around and went and did likewise.
Years later, they may still not be in a position to pledge much in a financial sense - JT still a starving student and all - but they give. They give of their time, their talents and their hearts. What does the Lord require of us? "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8.
He shows us in the action of our Youth .... may we take the time to notice. They give much more than we often see. Our Youth is our future; these Youth are our heart.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Follow me as I follow Christ

Our goal as Christian parents is to produce spiritually mature adults, ready to serve the Lord in any way he directs. We work toward that goal by loving our children as God loves us and by setting a Christ-like example for them to follow. But even then we’ve only begun. The next step is urgent, and may best be introduced by these instructions to Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:14-17, NIV).
That last statement describes the very person I want to produce--a man of God thoroughly equipped for every good work. How can I know I brought Josh & JT to that place? We know that parents play a huge role in shaping what their children become. As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined. God gives us our children for 18 or 19 or 20 years (or in Jarryd Thomas Patterson's case - 21 years and counting!) What we do with those years will stay with them for life and ultimately for eternity.
What part does influence play? Godly influence by itself cannot guarantee the salvation of our children. Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. But God does use means. He uses godly parents to help produce godly offspring.
We all know that godly parents may have ungodly kids. There are Esaus and there are Jacobs. But godly parents do make a difference! Paul says “Follow me as I follow Christ.” How many of us as parents would dare to say that to our children? Yet that is precisely what we should say. As a single parent through most of the boys child rearing years, I struggled to know if I was doing my job as a Christian mother. In the early years after my divorce, I believed I had failed as a Christian wife, so why shouldn't I have doubts about being a Christian mother. I made sure that Josh and JT learned who Christ was, and that they knew He was a member of our family. As they were going through Confirmation, as a family we wrote our Family Creed, it still hangs in my home- signed by each of us. It goes:
Each one of us residing in this home is a valued member of our family. We will treat each other with the respect and love due them. We will give encouragement when one of us feels discouraged. We will do our part to see that our house is a home where we can find rest and comfort.
We will lean on each other for support and allow others to lean on us when they are in need of strength. When life becomes chaotic we will remind each other to slow down and replenish the soul.
We will proudly announce that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is a member of our family. We will seek Him out in time of need and give thanks in time of plenty. We will turn to Him daily and seek His guidance.
We will remember that by ourselves we stand alone, but together we stand united and strong.

As the boys grew in stature, I became aware that they were also growing in Christ. Both of them attended Chrysalis during their Sophomore year of high school and sponsored friends when they were eligible, they were active in FCA and Youth activities including counseling at Camp PYOCA and Mission trips. Each gave sermons at church during their Senior year in high school, and JT has given a couple of others since then and he often gave Children sermons. But all this happened while living at home with me, under my influence, under my rules. When the boys left to go off to college I was so thankful to see that one of the first things they did was find a church. This is when I thought 'maybe I didn't do such a bad job after all'. I knew all along I would never be my mother ... who could! But I was starting to believe the job I had started, was being continued by Josh and JT themselves. Could there be a prouder moment?

I realized the answer to that question the past couple of months. And the answer is YES! The proudest moment is when your children have children, and you see that the values you had as a parent, they too have. It is when you walk into their home and see your son, now a father, playing his guitar and singing bible songs to his infant son. It is when your grandson is ill and you see your grown son praying for his well being. It is when you see your son loving his wife as his best friend.

I am a proud mother; for with God's help I have been able to produce two men of God - thoroughly equipped for every good work. God is good.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I have a reason to worship.

I was just listening to Tear Down the Walls this morning. In the CD, there’s also a re-recording of the 'Desert Song'. I love this song, but I admit that last line causes me to think.

All of my life, in every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Don't we only worship because there is something worthy of our adoration? Or is that just me? I may go to Worship, because it's Sunday and I am expected to be there. But I don't always feel worshipful. It may be (and usually is) because I am not right with God, it may be because I don't agree with what's being preached, but most often it's because I am not right with God.

This is when I have to go back to the line "You are still God". You are still God, no matter what. Whether my heart is right, or whether it isn't. You are still God, whether I praise you or if I don't. You are still God.

You are still God in EVERY season. Therefore, regardless of whether I feel like it I will sing Your praises, I will worship You.

As Job declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15). In other words, my reason for praising and worshipping God is God alone. Had Job relied on God’s blessing and tangible mercies to worship God, he might have rather taken his wife’s advice to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Instead, Job understood that simply because God is God is reason enough to sing His praises, reason to worship.

All of my life, in every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Maybe when I am at church on Sundays, I should focus on Worshiping God, and not my attitude. Maybe if I did this I would find a worshipful heart, and lose my self pity. Maybe I need to remember that I have a reason to worship not only on Sundays, but every day, every moment, every event, every tear.

Maybe I just need to trust God, and find reason with that alone to worship Him.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I hate Cancer

I am really missing my sister tonight. Today, Kristen's (my nephew's wife) brother passed away from cancer. J.D. was only 13. Life is full of questions, and that is one I ponder over and over .... why? J.D. had a wonderful life, a wonderful family, a wonderful community. Now that life is gone, and a family and community are hurting. What good comes from J.D.'s death? What good came from Joannie's death? In both cases it came to a point where we had to pray for their release because we did not want their suffering to continue. It was unfair for us to do otherwise. But that doesn't mean we accepted their death; their separation from us. We ache, and that ache does not diminish with time. I know people try to tell you it does. But it doesn't. We accept death with parents ... we understand that timing. But not a sibling, and not at such a young age such as 13. It wasn't an accident ... it was Cancer! It wasn't someone's foolish mistake ... it was Cancer. And long after they have left us, that cancer can enter our hearts and reside for years. I know ... it still lives in mine. I am not talking about the cancer I lived with and survived. I am talking about a cancer caused by hurt, by loss.
I think I have grown, moved on, whatever word or phrase you chose. But then days like today come along, days like J.D. ... and I realize that cancer is still there ... that it still resides in a corner of my heart. And when days like today come along .... it awakens.

I remember those last days with Joannie, the boys and I said our goodbyes to Joannie on Saturday before her death and went home. I often wondered what my siblings thought of me leaving like that. It wasn't my character ... but they all thought I needed to go home and get ready for Josh's graduation that next weekend.
The truth of the matter is ..... on Tuesday, May 31st I went in and had a lump removed from my breast. I had convinced myself that it would either be calcium deposits from caffeine like I had 15 years ago - or that it would be benign. I was wrong. It was cancerous, but it was small and I have been on tamoxifen and did not have to deal with chemo. I didn't intend to keep it a secret - but I was waiting for the right time to share it.
At that time, Joannie was dying and we all knew it, then two days later - she did. We were all busy - there was Josh's graduation and open house, then Joannie's viewing and service. Giving the eulogy was a very difficult thing to get through - but I was honored to give it on behalf of the siblings. Each of us had the right to grieve and putting my ordeal on them was not fair. What I had to deal with was nothing compared to Joannie, or even Patty. They are the hero's that showed me how to handle the past years. You take what life gives you and you make the most of it. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength - and I am thankful for the upbringing I had where I learned to 'believe'. I do believe and my faith has carried me through many battles. I knew this was another one I could get through.
There had been plenty of times I planned to share my 'news'. When the girls were together with Mom that first year in Nashville for Sept. 14th - I wanted to tell them, but I couldn't. When we were in Orlando the following Feb. - again I wanted to - but couldn't. Throughout this process - I hadn't said anything to the boys either. The reality of what cancer will do to people - and watching it take Aunt Joannie was difficult for them - and I didn't want to cause any unnecessary fear. My intention was to tell them ... eventually. I thought when it was right to say something - first it would be the boys, then Mom and our sisters, then the rest of my siblings.
When I celebrated my first year of clean health, it was a silent celebration. That was when I decided to share my experience with the boys. Of course they were scared, upset (actually pissed might be a better word!), worried, but ultimately relieved.
We all have our battles in life. Some we win, some we lose. I am not the first in our family to struggle with cancer .... but I have been able to be strengthened by the example I saw first in Joannie and then in Patty. I also felt my battle in no way compared to theirs. What a fight Joannie gave - ultimately cancer won, but what a fight she gave it. I was proud to be her sister. Patty battled breast cancer and because of technology and medication she was able to triumph over it - but it was her demeanor and faith that gave me courage. She continued to live and work despite her battle. She was my role model and again - I am proud to be her sister. I am embarrassed to compare my battle with theirs ... for in no way is there a likeness. What they had to fight through with the chemo and multiple rounds of radiation; I was blessed not to have experienced. I am thankful for that.

That cancer is gone …but another has appeared/returned. This cancer is called fear. Who will be next? Surely another loved one will fall prey to cancer. Who will it be?

Please God; not Josh, JT, Collin, Monika, Lizz …… I pray not. I hope not. But I fear so. My list is much longer than those mentioned. More family and dear, needed friends. I pray not. I hope not. But yes Lord, I do fear so.

Get out of the building!

The best way to kill a church is to squeeze the whole thing into a building. For without contact with people in need and publicly witnessing faith and trust in Jesus, a church will quietly die! ...

Bob Snyder

I am working on our Churh's PNC committee and we seem to have different perspectives ... which is what is right ... but it also ruffles my feathers! Particularly this week has this been evident. Our Church has a beautiful, roomy, useful church building. I love it, it does meet the needs of our Church. But it is not our Church! Our Church is the people we are, and the ministry we perform outside the walls that confine us on Sunday mornings. One gentleman in particular seems to dwell on the church building.This has given me more than a singular headache, and has led me to more than one margarita following meetings.
I know I am only one voice on the committee and need to be open to what others say. But come on .... I really just want a more community mission-minded committee, church and Pastor.
I want us to get out of the building!

Just voicing my frustrations.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Being a Grandma

Yesterday, then again last evening I was privileged to babysit the most precious child I have held in 21 years. Collin and Grandma time equals heaven. He is starting to smile and looks into your eyes and stare. I found out I could loose myself in those eyes. Who knows what he will grow up to be, but I know he will grow up knowing that Christ laid down His life for Collin, and I would too. When I arrived at his home last evening after Bible Study, I found Josh playing his guitar in Collin's room trying to put him to sleep. I can't begin to tell you what joy filled my heart at that sight. It didn't last long though ... why was Josh putting Collin down just as Grandma 'Retta arrived? I wanted to hold him. After Josh left, I couldn't contain myself ... I had to hold Collin. So of course I took him out of his crib and while still sleeping held him close to my heart so he could hear the beat. He is one of the reasons it beats on.
Grandma 'Retta loves you so much Collin Clay.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sister Time

This past weekend was our annual time with Mom ... and for the first time we were short two. Nancy, after surprising us last year about going back to Mission work, is off to Sudan. Lynette was home being Mom ... and that is a wonderful job that requires you to sometimes miss out on things you'd rather be a part of. We had fantastic weather ... enabling us to have a campfire. Fellowship was great ... nothing beats time spent with sisters that are also some of your closest friends. Lots of laughs, little sleep, lots of food, trips to Peachy's and Swary's equal a successful outing.
Thank you Sis' ... you make me feel loved and special.
"I am only one, but I am one. I can not do everything, but I can do something. I will not let what I can not do interfere with what I can do." Edward Everett Hale